The European Parliament refused to display an Israeli exhibition of caricatures criticizing the Iranian government’s human rights abuses on the grounds that it is “too controversial.”
An exhibition of caricatures seeking to expose the Iranian government’s human rights abuses has been rejected for display at the European Parliament on the grounds that it is “too controversial.”
The Israeli Cartoon Project, established in partnership with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), reached out to Israeli politician Yair Lapid almost a year ago for assistance in bringing the artistic statement to the European Union (EU) Parliament in Brussels.
But EU officials replied only days ago that the exhibition was cancelled, only offering the explanation that “the exhibition is controversial.”
The caricatures draw attention to human-rights violations against women, homosexuals, and Sunni and Baha’i minorities, as well as the repression, arrest and execution of political-opposition activists, underage marriage and other abuses.
Organizers decided to hold the exhibition despite the abrupt cancellation and will instead display the works near the parliament building in Belgium’s capital city.
TICP considers its work an act of solidarity with the Iranian people.
EU Itself is a ‘Caricature’
“The decision by the EU to cancel the caricature exhibition makes the EU [itself] a caricature,” said Lapid. “[The EU] failed in differentiating between killers and prey, between terrorists and victims.”
He expressed his support for the exhibit, which illustrates that “Iran is an Islamic terror dictatorship that believes in bloodshed.”
Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s EU office and its Transatlantic Institute, also slammed the outcome.
“It’s a decision that no doubt must have pleased the Majlis—that sham Iranian parliament—but it is no badge of honor for a Western parliament, particularly one that says that human rights, freedom of speech and the fight for democracy are among its main priorities,“ stated Schwammenthal.
“The exhibition, we were told, would have damaged Parliament’s ‘dignity.’ With all due respect, I would argue that not this exhibition, but its censorship, is the real damage to Parliament’s dignity and image,” he added.
“It would have been one thing for Parliament to block one or two of the cartoons. However, to suppress the installation in its entirety suggests it is not a legitimate argument over taste, but an attempt to silence a debate,” Schwammenthal continued.
“Who would have imagined that an installation criticizing human rights violations would be deemed too ‘controversial’ to be displayed in the European Parliament,” he said.
The artists involved in the project expressed their desire to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people in a nonviolent way. For Iranians, they hope for freedom and a return to the rich cultural life they enjoyed before the rise of the Islamic Republic.
EU lawmakers Lars Adaktusson, Anders Vistisen, Peter Niedermüller and Petras Auštrevičius, co-hosts of the exhibit, said in a joint statement that “freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, which needs to be cherished. We would like to point out that by censoring the exhibition, the EP reconfirms once again its passive stance towards the Iranian regime’s violence and aggression against its own people and neighbors.”